Seamus Byrne

Life
1904-1968, playwright; b. Dublin, ed. UCD, law; imprisoned 1940 for radio transmissions for IRA, and hungerstriker, released after 9 months; acted as critic for the Catholic Standard; plays include Design for a Headstone, on the subject of a hungerstrike, and fore-runner of Quare Fellow (Abbey 1950), Little City, rejected by Abbey for abortion theme but played at Dub. Theatre Festival (Gate 1964); Innocent Bystander (Abbey 1951); worked as consultant after release. DIB DIW DIL OCIL

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Works
Design for a Headstone
[Abbey, April 1956] (Dublin: Progress House 1956), reprinted in Robert Hogan, ed. Seven Irish Plays (Minnesota UP 1967).

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Commentary
T. P. Coogan, in Sean McCann, ed., The World of Sean O’Casey (1966), writes: ‘I think that Gabriel Fallon is expecting too much of human nature when he writes (In Sean O’Casey [1965], p.174), that Seamus Byrne, the [Catholic] Standard’s critic for the occasion [of The Bishop’s Bonfire, 1955] could not be accused of pro-clericalism because a play that Byrne had written some time earlier, Design for a Headstone, had almost created a theatre riot because it was thought anti-clerical. ... The following May, Grahame [sic] Greene came under fire both from Mr Fallon and Seamus Byrne, neither of whom thought much of The Living Room. ... [On] 13 May, Seamus Byrne had written in the Standard that the crippled priest, anti-hero of The Living Room was ‘phoney in a Roman collar’ and the Standard’s lead story one page one, devoted to attacking Graham Green and those who staged his play, was headlined ‘The enemy within the gates’. [...] Mr Byrne who a little later was involved in controversy when he wrote a truthful play (about abortion) and was the victim of many venomous newspaper correspondents’ attacks.’ (p.124f.; see also under Gabriel Fallon, Rx.)

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References
D. E. S. Maxwell, Modern Irish Drama 1891-1980 (Cambridge UP 1984), lists Design for a Headstone (Progress Hse., Dublin 1956; also in R. Hogan, ed. Seven Irish Plays (Minn. 1967). ‘Design for a Headstone is a “strong” treatment of the conflict, provoked by a hungerstrike, between Church doctrine and IRA principle. It fails to make us link to its many past and present analogies ...’. (ibid. p. 148)

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